What Am I Doing With My Life?

Every day I wake up and wonder if I’m “doing enough” with my life right now. Depending on how you phrase it, I am either a low-life who lives at home and doesn’t have a real job. Or, if we choose to look at the glass half-full, one could say I’m making a career change by taking some time to study programming so that I can finally love what I do. The latter sounds way better when introducing myself at parties. But the former isn’t entirely untrue either – ideally sans “low-life”.

I am the Bergermeister, and I am studying Full Stack Web Development with React through Flatiron’s online program. In this post I’ll give a little background as to how I got to this point and discuss why I am in the program in the first place.

The Bergermeister Leaves Germany

I studied Finance and German at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. My senior year I got lucky and was awarded a Fulbright Teaching Assistant award and a CBYX for Young Professionals scholarship, both for Germany. Very blessed. Basically, I have studied German my whole life but had never been to the country, so I rubbed my cat’s belly and said “pleez can I has money 2 go 4 free?” And my dreams came true. I also worked pretty hard on my applications. I went with CBYX because we were required to find an internship at the end of the program, which I felt would be most beneficial for setting me up for a career after the program.

Long story short, I ended up staying in Germany for almost 5 years and was working mostly within the financial services industry as an account manager in a sales department. It wasn’t a bad gig, but I started to not like it. Then things improved. And then I really didn’t like. It goes downhill from there. As a last minute effort to find happiness, which always seemed to elude me no matter how many potato pancakes with applesauce I stuffed in my mouth at my favorite farmer’s market, I decided to quit my job and move back home. Back to good ol’ Springfield, Virginia. Because when I make a change in my life I make sure I move up. I’ve been back for almost a year now.

Hi! Will You Please Hire Me for This Job I Don’t Want?

I arrived home mid-July 2016. I was supposed to have a full-time job by October. Maybe November. Okay maybe I’ll find one by January. No but I really need to have one by May, at the latest.

It’s mid-July again and I clearly still don’t have one. It’s not that I didn’t try, because I did. Half-heartedly. The issue was that I just honestly wasn’t very excited about any of the jobs I was applying for. These were jobs that seemed to fit my profile because of my experience in sales. My lack of enthusiasm was probably apparent in my interviews. I wouldn’t be surprised if I sabotaged a few potential offers. But don’t fret! Living at home rent-free has allowed me to keep freelancing (proof-reading German to English translated documents) and take some other side jobs to make enough money to pay for my student loans (damn you!) and other expenses. So life hasn’t been too bad.

I was even making enough money to save a little, so in April I signed up for a week-long Improv 101 intensive with UCB in New York City. Off I went to loud and dirty Manhattan, ready to be disillusioned by the insanely competitive comedy scene and angered by how my $15 bowl of “the best ramen in town” wasn’t that great. ┬áBut not all hope was lost. That trip was actually the catalyst that brought me to this program in the first place. I crashed at a friend’s place since he was going to be gone for a few days (a real bed?!). So of course I did some rummaging through his book shelve. He had tons of programming books. Turns out he taught himself to code and made a career change a little while back. We had chatted about it briefly before he left for his work trip. He seemed to like his new job, he made the switch sound easy. Like anyone could do it.

I remember sitting on his bed one day after improv class, and suddenly I thought: Duh! This is what I need to be doing, I need to study web development and programming. It just made sense. I have the time, I have the funds (kind of), and I’ll probably regret it in 5 years if I don’t. Ta-da! The epiphany moment I had been waiting for. Thank you universe for telling me what to do with my life because I sure haven’t been able to figure it out.

Computer Nerd

I like to think I’m a bit of a computer nerd. At least I’ve always wanted to be one. When I was around 12 I taught myself how to make webpages with HTML and CSS. I had to make my Neopets guild and accompanying website look super kewl so we’d get more members. Obvi. I LOVED making webpages. There are few things in my life that I have been that passionate about, that can make me so happy. Bhangra, comedy, Crossfit, and food are some of the others… I’m weird.

I loved the mix of coding and graphic design, and I would literally wake up in the morning excited to get back to my computer to update a layout. “Because the one I made yesterday just isn’t good enough anymore!” I remember getting frustrated when my code wouldn’t work and I had to spend forever trying to find the error. Did code validation websites exist back then? That would have been helpful.

As I researched how to best get into programming, I first considered teaching myself. But I gave up web design over 10 years ago so I doubt I would be motivated enough. I looked into bootcamps and saw there were a lot of great ones, but I wasn’t interested in going into more debt. Nor could I afford expensive housing costs in NYC or San Francisco even if I got a deferred payment option. That’s when I found Flatiron’s online program, which was a perfect fit for me. I could take my time and continue to work on the side, all while living at home. They have great reviews and are also publicly audited. Plus I was awarded a scholarship for women to get 50% off my tuition! Isn’t she lucky, this Spr-ing-field girl? I’m all about maximizing that cash to savings ratio. I studied finance or something, so you should listen to me when I whip out that lingo. ETFs. DCFs. WTF. Why didn’t I buy Chipotle stock back in college? Because then this blog post wouldn’t even exist right now.

I am not entirely sure if I want to be purely front-end or back-end, or do a bit of both, so I really like how this program gives me a great overview. It hasn’t been easy so far. Everyone says programming is hard, and it is. Ugh. Part of me thinks there is no way I’ll make it through Rack, Sinatra, and Rails. Sounds like the name of a hip old-timey bar in DC. And I won’t lie, I’m a bit worried about where I’ll be in 6-12 months. Will I have a job? Or will I be a programming failure? But I’m actually fine with a little bit of uncertainty. I’m much happier now not knowing exactly what I’m doing with my life, compared to where I was before. If I don’t figure it out on my own eventually, I’m sure the universe will hand me another epiphany moment when I need it the most.